The 30-year anniversary celebration at Churchill's this past Saturday night seemed largely like business as usual, except three times as crowded, hot, and smoky. The bands on the lineup were those that have popped up often in the venue's history, and it was near impossible to get a drink. But all this provided a comforting assurance that all was right in the universe -- how better to celebrate a place than to revel in its very essence?
Even the schedule was running hopelessly behind -- again, just how it should have been. The event was conceived as a full-on festival, a fun conceit, with schedules of set times posted. Bands were ostensibly meant to alternate between the main stage and the back patio theater, with little lag in between. I'm not sure at which point that derailed. I arrived a little before midnight to catch, I think, the beginning of Boy Prostitute's set -- a band that, according to the posted schedule, was supposed to have gone on around 10:30. But who really cares? The Churchill's ethos is a welcome antithesis of the tight set times and curfews of more formal venues. This is South Florida; nobody wants to worry about getting to a show at the posted start time.
Beyond all that, Radiobaghdad's set was a pleasant surprise. It's been at least 10 years since I last saw this band play live, and although these days the members look more winded over the course of a set, their fast, gonzo punk hasn't lost its bite. If Radiobaghdad were a new band today, they would get eaten up by fans of aggro hardcore/rock-and-fucking-roll-hybrid bands like the Bronx and Every Time I Die. The refrain of "Truckers on Speed" scared me when I first heard it as a teen: "I WANT SPEED THAT'S CUT WITH GLASS! OH! IT BURNS!" It still sounds scary, and that's awesome.
Nobody's Hero prompted the best audience response of the evening. While people somehow stayed mostly still for Radiobaghdad, Nobody's Hero actually packed the room and got a pit going. Perhaps this is because of the band's cross-generational appeal. Local punk aficionados know that, of course, frontman Danny Lore Joe Koontz had his most famous turn in Against All Authority. But Nobody's Hero is very much an active, current band, and thus manages to ensnare the barely-legals along with the 30-year-olds. The band's sound is a fairly straightforward melodic/street hybrid kind of thing; it would have been popular on the Warped Tour when the Warped Tour still featured punk rock. The lyrics are political but don't dig too deep; this makes for better crowd singalongs. And Lore Koontz nodded to his former local celebrity by ending the set with an interlude of AAA's closest thing to a hit, "All Fall Down."
Still, Tongues of the Heartworm were probably the most punk act of the whole night. The destructo reputations of the member's previous bands -- Postface and Load -- precede them, and Tongues (an appropriately gross name) do not disappoint in belligerence. Frontman Rick Ambrose seemed unapologetically drunk, starting his stage patter by insulting a couple of '77-style punk kids near the front of the stage, insinuating, perhaps, that they were better off heading to the nearest gay bar. Ouch. It was hard to tell how serious he was about that, but there wasn't enough time to analyze, because a moment later, he actually left the stage to use the bathroom, even though his band was playing the intro to a song. The music itself is a shambling, distorted series of waneirng excursions that sound intended mostly to alienate, and to celebrate binge drinking. And in an age of well-coiffed pseudo-"punk," god bless 'em for that.
Personal Bias: I'll probably never say anything bad in this forum about either Churchill's or punk rock, as both have been recurring motifs in my life over the last 12 or so years.
Random Detail: This event was better prepared for inclement weather, with a temporary tent erected as shelter over the back patio theater.
By the Way: On an only semi-related note ... the Slammie Awards were fun! Can we bring those back?